There is no debate that America needs to get it's financial house in order. The debate starts on what parts of the budget should we cut and on whom we should raise taxes, if it all. Should we cut Medicare? Medicaid? Education? Social Security? Infrastructure? Defense? Should we raise taxes on the super-wealthy? The middle class? The poor?
"Gentlemen, we have run out of money. It is time to start thinking." is a quote from Sir Ernest Rutherford, winner of the Nobel Prize in Nuclear Physics; nothing could be more true and is the essence of this new book on an America in decline and how to fix it.
Edward Luce. editor of The Financial Times, makes a case for a return to American pragmatism and for strengthening the American middle class in his book, Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent.
So what's at the heart of this (an America that's falling behind)?
EDWARD LUCE, author: I think that the heart of this is the health, the condition of the middle class, because I think the middle class, the greatness of the American middle class explains the greatest generation of the 20th century, its rise to being the first -- the world's first mass middle class in the mid-20th century was key to America's success.
I also think a strong middle class is key to a democracy, not just to an economy. And that is breaking down and has been breaking down, which gives such cause for concern over a long period of time, if you look at the pay rates, if you look at the security of the middle class, and if you look at their ability to move up to different income levels.
So that core American value of income mobility is now something where we're doing worse than other countries.
Luce turns his attention to a number of different key issues that are set to affect America's position in the world order: the changing structure of the US economy, the continued polarization of American politics; the debilitating effect of the "permanent election campaign"; the challenges involved in the overhaul of the country's public education system; and the health-or sickliness-of American innovation in technology and business. His conclusion, "An Exceptional Challenge" looks at America's dwindling options in a world where the pace is increasingly being set elsewhere. While many Americans believe that their country can and should retain its status as a global superpower, Luce sees this as an increasingly unlikely scenario, unless Americans themselves can stand up against the country's increasingly plutocratic character. America has bounced back successfully from the shocks of The Great Depression and the Soviet launch of Sputnik, but Luce wonders if the next crisis in American confidence may knock it off the top-dog position for good."
As distressing as it is important, Time to Start Thinking presents an America in economic, social, and political crisis, in danger of losing its most defining and vital characteristic: its pragmatism.